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AK: Girls Wrestling

By | January 17, 2014

Photo by Emily Forman, KCAW - Sitka.

Photo by Emily Forman, KCAW – Sitka.

Your high school might have had a wrestling team, but how many wrestlers were girls?

There are more than a dozen girls on Sitka’s Mt. Edgecumbe High School wrestling team, and they regularly beat boys in their weight class.

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The team is tackling more than just gender barriers; they’re paving the way for the first girls sanctioned wrestling tournament in the state of Alaska.

Deidre Creed is just a few pounds shy of one hundred. But don’t let her petite build and golden locks fool you. She is dangerous.

Photo by Emily Forman, KCAW - Sitka.

Photo by Emily Forman, KCAW – Sitka.

“I feel pain, but usually if you’re the one on top you’re the one inflicting the pain,” Creed said.

At a recent wrestling practice, DD faces her opponent. She crouches low with outstretched arms. When the whistle blows she lunges forward and hooks a knee, knocking her opponent to the ground. It’s over fast.

“I’d always feel good because I’d always be the underdog because I was the girl,” Creed said. “So it would always feel extra special to win.”

Since there isn’t a girls wrestling team, DD wrestles boys. She’s a senior and just competed in the last state tournament of her high school career. But, she hopes the younger girls on her team will someday compete in a girls-only season. This idea is not far-fetched. The Alaska School Activities board is reviewing a proposal to create a girls sanctioned tournament. If approved, it will be thanks to this guy.

“I’m Mike Kimber. I’m the wrestling coach at Mt. Edgecumbe High School.”

At practice, Kimber stands at the center of the mat, barking out drills. He’s wearing a T-shirt that says girl wrestlers rule.

Kimber has coached the Mt Edgecumbe wrestling team for 15 seasons. He started recruiting girls in his second year. While Mt. Edgecumbe isn’t the only team in Alaska with girls, they likely have the most. Kimber estimates he coaches 26 girls. Nineteen made it to regional’s.

“As a matter of fact my first nationally ranked wrestler was a girl,” Kimber said. “A young lady from cold bay named Sonia Maxwell. She qualified for the state tournament at 189 lbs against boys.”

Kimber is also a Mt Edgecumbe wrestling alumn. When he competed there were only a few girls on the team. Kimber remembers a time when schools would forfeit matches if girls came to wrestle. Now, there’s a lot less resistance. But, it’s still hard to shake the stereotypes.

Photo by Emily Forman, KCAW - Sitka.

Photo by Emily Forman, KCAW – Sitka.

“You know, I think probably the part that’s most surprising is, when you come around and see people and they go really girls wrestle?” Kimber said. “When we go on trips, ‘oh so you guys are managers’ and I say ‘no they’re wrestlers,’ ‘what do you mean they’re wrestlers?’”

Kimber loves the sport, and is adamant that it needs girls to grow. His father coached girls, and his daughter is a star wrestler.

He has high, but equal expectations for all his wrestlers. That kind of equality is appealing to the girls. They feel supported and challenged.

“I much rather enjoy coaching girls than the boys sometimes, people say there’s so much drama with girls, but really the drama on our team centers around the boys, and very little around the girls,” Kimber said.

The person that might have the most insight on how girls and boys approach the sport differently is DD’s twin brother, Trevor. The pair has been wrestling for as long as they can remember.

“I’m bigger I can muscle her around,” Trevor said. “So she has to trick me, maybe push my head in another direction. She has to use her mind more when she wrestles.”

It looks like girls wrestling is in Alaska’s future. Kimber was the first to petition the Alaska School Activities board to create a girls wrestling season. And at a board hearing in December Kimber and other coaches around Southeast made a compelling case. Andrew Friske, the Southeast representative on the Alaska School Activities Board, says the idea of girls wrestling really isn’t a hard sell.

“These are coaches that have been around for 15-20 years and they said it’s a no brainer for them to start girls wrestling,” Friske said. “They think with more girls there is going to be more boys that come out. It’s going to be a stronger program and breed success.”

But there are still some hurdles. And the board wants to make sure they weigh the financial implications, and logistics of a new state tournament.

In the end the board decided to back a proposal where girls would continue to compete against boys throughout the season, but the regional and state tournament would be girls sanctioned.

As for DD, she hopes to continue wrestling in college. Her performance at state caught the eye of recruiters, winning her an invitation to represent Alaska at this year’s Arctic Winter Games. That’s a first for a Mt. Edgecumbe girl wrestler.

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